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Community pantries no expression of gov't condemnation —Palace

The emergence of community pantries, which allow people to get free donated food items, is not a condemnation of the government amid the COVID-19 pandemic, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Monday.

“It shows the best of the Filipino. It is part of our psyche to help one another. I don’t see it as a condemnation of the government,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.

“It shows the best of us during the worst of times.”

Senator Panfilo Lacson and former Vice President Jejomar Binay, have earlier said that the emergence of community pantries, which started on Maginhawa Street in Quezon City, is brought about by the government’s failure to provide enough aid to the populace and a manifestation of desperation.

While lauding the rise of community pantries in different parts of the country, Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said it should serve as a wake up call to the government.

"We should not forget that the rise of community pantries is emblematic of how the present administration, despite the available resources, grossly failed in its obligations to help millions of our poor people cope with the ravages of the crisis," Zarate said in a press statement.

Quarantine restrictions have been in effect more than a year to reduce COVID-19 transmission, resulting in job losses, if not reduced income and work hours due to prohibition of mass gathering.

Roque, however, insisted that this is not the case.

“We disagree. This shows na bayanihan ang umiiral, hindi bangayan [It shows that the spirit of communal unity is the prevailing sentiment],” he added.

Roque also cited that the government’s P23 billion cash aid for areas affected by the two-week enhanced community quarantine from March 29 to April 11 is ongoing, and the delay is caused by the existing prohibition of mass gathering.

“It is kind of slow since only P4 billion of the P23 billion has been distributed so far. Humihingi po tayo ng paumanhin dahil talagang medyo may kabagalan. Pero sa panahon po kasi ng pandemya, hindi natin maiiwasan na talagang mag-ingat dahil baka mamaya ay maibigay nga iyong ayuda ay magkaroon naman ng COVID-19 iyong mga taumbayan,” he said.

(We apologize for the slight delay because amid a pandemic, we have to be careful so that the aid distribution won’t result in COVID-19 transmission.)

The P23-billion aid, Roque said, is on top of other forms of aid such as food packs from the Department of Social Welfare and Development and another cash assistance from Labor department.

“The enemy thrives in mass gathering, so that it the real challenge. Kung dati-rati magpapatawag lang tayo sa isang multi-purpose center na punong-puno walang problema eh ngayon hindi naman natin magagawa iyon ‘no dahil that’s the best recipe for disaster,” he added.

(We can’t call on the public to gather in one place and distribute the aid right there because that would be a disaster.) —KBK/RSJ, GMA News